AMES - The Cyclones made holding an 18-point lead look extremely difficult - and the game-winning bucket look extraordinarily easy.
Freshman Georges Niang hit a wide-open layup with 2.5 seconds left off a brilliant feed from Will Clyburn and Iowa State beat West Virginia 69-67 Wednesday night.
Melvin Ejim had 16 points and 13 rebounds for the Cyclones (12-4, 2-1 Big 12), who survived an unexpectedly wild finish for their second straight win.
""I thought he made a heck of a play to find Georges in there all by himself," Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg said of Clyburn, whose only assist of the night was the biggest one of the season for the Cyclones. "I was pretty confident. Georges is as good of a finisher as we have on the team."
Iowa State opened the second half with an 18-4 run and led by as much as 56-38.
That's when it all started to fall apart.
The Mountaineers (8-8, 1-3), who had missed their first 12 3-point tries, hit nine of their last 12.
Jabarie Hinds capped the stunning hot streak with a 3 to tie it 67-all with 11.6 seconds left. But Clyburn spun from two defenders and found Niang for what was essentially an uncontested game-winner underneath the basket.
"They caught a rhythm, and they made tough shots," Hoiberg said. "They hit from 25, 26 feet with a hand in their face. If they hit those shots, you shake their hand. I'm thankful we got this win."
Hinds had 20 points for West Virginia. Juwan Staten, the Mountaineers second-leading scorer, had seven points and seven assists after being benched by coach Bob Huggins for the previous three halves.
"I thought he was very good," West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said of Staten.
The same couldn't be said for many of Staten's teammates for much of the game.
The Mountaineers kept it close for a while because of their defense, but couldn't do much of anything on offense until the final minutes.
And then they did nearly everything - until the final few seconds.
Still, Huggins promised a change to a smaller lineup after the game after seeing his team dominated for much of the night.
"We're going to have to play small. This is a different league than what we were in. It's officiated differently. The style of play is different. We're going to have to change," West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said. "I mean, how can it be worse? We're 1-3."
West Virginia's physical defense gave Iowa State trouble in the first half. The Cyclones had just four shots inside of 20 feet - including a pair of spectacular dunks by Clyburn - but they hit enough 3s, six, for a 29-26 lead.
Ejim steadied Iowa State's offense with a pair of inside scores, and Clyburn followed West Virginia's 12th-straight missed 3 with a three-point play to make it 40-28 with 15:56 to go.
The way the Mountaineers were shooting, it felt like an insurmountable advantage.
Korie Lucious had 15 points and eight assists for Iowa State, which learned the hard way that hardly any lead is insurmountable in league play.
"When you're up like that and a team starts hitting shots out of nowhere, you've got to keep in mind that that can happen on any night and that you've got to close out teams," Ejim said.
Though the Mountaineers got back one of their best players in Staten, one of their most promising youngsters didn't even make the trip to Ames.
Freshman Terry Henderson, who started the last eight games and averaged 11 points in his last three, stayed back in West Virginia because of a back injury. That might not sound like a ton of points to lose - until you consider that no Mountaineer entered play with more than 10.6 points an outing.
Eron Harris chipped in with 17 points for West Virginia, including four 3s in the second half.
"They caught a rhythm, and they made tough shots," Hoiberg said.
Iowa State guard Bubu Palo, who was reinstated to the team on Monday after a sexual abuse charge against him was dropped by prosecutors, sat on the bench but wasn't in uniform.
Palo was suspended from the team in September after being charged with sexually abusing a woman in May. But the Story County Attorney's Office said Monday that forensic evidence clashed with sworn testimony provided by the woman and her mother.
Palo said Wednesday that he expects to be back in time for next week's game at Texas Tech.